Article Originally Published by Deondre Jones on North Texas Daily
After a nail-biting loss on Saturday, North Texas (19-10, 13-3 Conference USA) regained its form to defeat Florida International (17-11, 8-7 C-USA) on the road 78-59.
“We just had a mature approach to the game and I felt like we handled what we needed to do in order to win the basketball game the right way,” head coach Grant McCasland said.
The Mean Green jumped out to an early 10-0 lead but Florida International found ways to get back in this game early as they trimmed the deficit to four with 11 minutes remaining.
But North Texas was able to create huge separation after sophomore guard Umoja Gibson and junior guard James Reese got going offensively. The pair scored 14 points apiece entering the half and were efficient from downtown. Gibson shot 4-of-6 from 3-point range while Reese shot 2-of-3 from deep.
The Mean Green held their own on the glass as they outrebounded their opponent 19-12 entering the half. They also capitalized on a lot of second-chance opportunities. Both teams finished with 33 rebounds.
“We just put an emphasis on being patient throughout the week, getting to our spots and not being rushed trying to avoid shot blockers … just playing our game,” senior forward Deng Geu said. “With the scorers we have, if you give us more than one chance, then it’s definitely not in your favor.”
Geu finished the game with four points but grabbed eight rebounds to go with two blocks.
The second-chance points combined with efficient shooting from beyond the arc paved the way for North Texas as they went into halftime with a 46-28 lead.
North Texas continued to roll going into the second half as Gibson was able to convert on a couple more looks from deep. Gibson finished the game with 23 points, going 6-of-9 from 3-point, to go along with three steals.
Junior guard Javion Hamlet recording 10 of his 14 points in the second half. Hamlet made plays all around as he finished with eight assists and tied a career-high in rebounds with six.
With 5:27 remaining in the game, North Texas jumped out to a 74-49 lead, their largest of the game and continued to play hard until the final buzzer as they won their first game of pod play.
Despite playing just 19 minutes, due to foul trouble, junior forward Zachary Simmons was able to make a big impact inside, recording 15 points and grabbing four rebounds.
After an inefficient 3-point display in last Saturday’s game against the Bulldogs, North Texas was able to rebound by shooting 56.3 percent from outside. The Mean Green held their opponent to 2-of-16 from beyond the arc.
“Nothing really changed in our routine. All the guys were locked in,” junior guard James Reese said. “We took the same shots last game and just happened to miss … that’s just the game of basketball. Today we were able to hit them and that helped get us a win, but we did a lot of things on the defensive end to help us get over the hump too.”
Today’s win marks North Texas’ 13th win in conference this season. This is the most they’ve had since the 2009-10 season when they went to the NCAA Tournament.
UP NEXT: North Texas will return home to play on Sunday at 1 p.m. as they take on Western Kentucky (19-9, 12-4 C-USA). North Texas has lost the last 11 matchups to the Hilltoppers with their last win in 2012.
Featured Image: Senior guard Roosevelt Smart looks for an open teammate against Louisiana Tech on Feb. 22, 2020. Image by Zachary Thomas
Source: North Texas Daily